ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Uncertain Climate, Vulnerable Livelihoods

Role of MGNREGS in Risk Reduction among Rural Households in Telangana

With limited water resource endowments and a predominantly agrarian base, livelihoods in the semi-arid tropics are particularly vulnerable to climatic uncertainties and frequent droughts. The low levels of development of diversified livelihood options in the non-farm sector and a lack of skill base compel households to seek multiple low-income livelihoods to sustain the household in lean resource years. Among these, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has provided the most significant coping mechanism for most households, particularly the poorest and most backward sections. The scheme may thus be seen as a prominent drought risk reduction policy. However, challenges of implementation arise when the policy manifests on field realities which tend to reduce the effectiveness and weaken its impact.

The authors acknowledge the contribution of the SaciWATERs research team (Mansi Goyal, Arunima Rao, Suchita Jain, Sai Kiran), field staff (Sakrubai, Achyuth, Praveen, Sunanda, and Shruthi), block level government officials and panchayats of the study villages. They wish to thank Sucharita Sen for her guidance and UNICEF for funding the project “Drought Preparedness of Vulnerable Sections in Rural Telangana” of which this article is a part.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is among the core centrally-sponsored schemes (CSSs) listed by the NITI Aayog to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, that is, “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Keeping the Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj nodal, the NITI Aayog, by the year 2030, targets to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere in India, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day (NITI Aayog 2017). In addition, the MGNREGS, with the other core schemes,1 is expected to help reduce the population living under conditions of poverty by at least half, implement central social protection systems and measures, ensure equal rights to various productive assets and capitals and build resilience of vulnerable sections of the population against economic, social, and environmental shocks, and seasonal uncertainties by the year 2030.2 However, these targets seem to be challenging given the prevailing situation at the grass-roots level. In a report by the World Bank on social security nets (SSNs), it is found that India ranked 237 in the world in terms of performance of social protection and labour programme systems with a coverage of 22.61% among the poorest quintile (World Bank Group 2018). However, MGNREGS is the largest public SSN programme with a coverage of 27% of the poorest quintile. Also, India ranked 58 and 42 in the world in terms of annual absolute spending on SSNs per capita ($77 purchasing power parity [PPP]) and annual spending on SSNs as percentage of GDP (1.51%), respectively.

The MGNREGS is an active labour market flagship SSN programme of the Government of India. The act pertaining to the MGNREGS aims to create durable assets and strengthen the livelihood resource base of the rural poor. It mandates at least 100 days of secured wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult member/s volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Although the minimum wages offered under the scheme are lower than the prevailing wage rates in the labour market for similar types of manual work (Vij et al 2017), there has been a greater participation of rural households due to the fact that it provides guaranteed in situ employment opportunities for both men and women particularly during the lean agricultural season when unskilled labour is abundantly available (Jatav and Jajoria 2012; Jatav and Sen 2013). Also, the scheme espouses a pro-poor and women-centric approach in its implementation.

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Updated On : 5th Jul, 2019
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